How taking an alpaca for a walk became a staycation trend
- Credit: Sophie Gordon
If walking a four-legged mammal around a field sounds like your idea of a good day out, you're not alone.
Expect we're not talking dogs, horses or even anything native to the UK.
The creatures in question are alpacas, a member of the camel family originating in South America - and not to be confused with llamas.
Alpaca walking is one of the fastest-growing activities in the country, with demand soaring dramatically in recent years.
And, as more people holiday at home rather than heading abroad amid the coronavirus pandemic, firms in Norfolk are seeing a surge in interest.
Among them is Wymondham Alpacas, which only opened in January of last year.
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"You could say it was the worst year ever for a new business to open," admitted Tom Boggan, 27, who runs the business off Barnham Broom Road.
"But any time I have been allowed to open, the diary has been completely full. It has been so busy.
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"We managed to do January to March last year, then June until Christmas time.
"The lockdown means we've missed out on so much. We had a wedding booked, care home visits - all sorts."
Wymondham Alpacas will finally reopen again on April 12, when visitors can once again interact with these endearing animals, feed them and take the six boys for a walk.
Also looking to resume later this month is Let's Go Alpacas, a breeding farm in Wretham, near Thetford.
Owner Sophie Gordon is awaiting permission from Forestry England before accepting bookings again, but expects to be swamped with interest.
"We're going to be really busy," said Miss Gordon, 31. "My expectation is, as soon as I post on our Facebook that we are taking bookings, we are going to be inundated.
"At Christmas we sold so many experience vouchers. People knew they would want to get outside and do things in the UK when lockdown was eased.
"We've had so many messages asking 'when can we book in?' That has really increased and alpaca walking is definitely growing.
"People are still cautious but they just want to get outside, which is obviously one of the safest places you can be."